Up to their Necks
Rediscovered War Painting by Paul Nash at Bonhams Modern British Sale

A moving depiction of British soldiers in the First World War by the landscape painter and Official War Artist Paul Nash (1889-1946), is one of the highlights of Bonhams Modern British and Irish Art Sale in London on Wednesday 20 November. Leaving the Trenches is estimated at £50,000-70,000.

Leaving the Trenches was executed in 1917 and is one of a batch of drawings of life at the front which Nash exhibited at The Goupil Gallery in London in May of that year. Their freshness and sense of realism made an immediate impact on a public starved of images of the conflict. It influenced the decision of the Ministry of Information, headed by the author John Buchan, to appoint Nash as an Official War Artist.

In the Goupil Gallery works, Nash drew on his own brief experience of the Western Front. Posted to France in 1917, he arrived at the Ypres Salient in March, but by May he was back in England. Nash had fallen in the dark one night and severely broken a rib. Three days after he was invalided out, his regiment – the Hampshires – was cut to ribbons in the battle for Hill 60. Most of his fellow officers were killed.

Bonhams Director of Modern British Art, Christopher Dawson said, "In his later work as an Official War Artist, Nash vividly captured the horror of trench warfare. Leaving the Trenches, by contrast, depicts soldiers on their way out of the trenches. Nevertheless, reminders of danger are ever present, from the bi-planes in the sky, to the trees scarred by shelling and the soldiers' nervous glances over the shoulders to check on the men behind. These early war works by Nash are scarce; most of them are in public collections. The emergence of Leaving the Trenches at auction, therefore, is a rare event, and has excited a good deal of interest."

Other highlights of the sale include:

Industrial Scene with Figures by L. S. Lowry (1887-1976). Painted on a very small scale – it's 15.2 x 11 cm. (6 x 4 3/8 in.) – Industrial Scene with Figures (1958) illustrates that Lowry was just as accomplished working on diminutive pictures as he was on expansive canvases. Estimate: £70,000-100,000.

Bog Pool by Paul Henry (1876-1958). Turf stacks and bogs were a prevailing theme throughout Henry's career. Bog Pool dates from 1917 and was among a number of specific compositions that he executed between 1916 – 1920. Estimate: £60,000-80,000.

Chinese Horse III (Standing) 1989 by Dame Elisabeth Frink (1930-1993). Although surrounded by racing horses at her home in Wolland, Frink instead turned to primitive depictions of horses for the majority of her sculptures from this period that drew inspiration from her time spent with the horses of the Camargue. Estimate: £50,000-70,000.


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